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Interview: Global motivational speaker Molly Harvey on secrets to success

Leading change: Interview with Molly Harvey

Motivational speaker Molly Harvey has built up a globally successful company from Warrington, inspiring leaders across the world to adapt and develop. She shares some of the secrets to her success with Move Commercial.

Words by Natasha Young 

North West-based motivational speaker Molly Harvey, in her own words, doesn’t work.

The Irish-born mindset coach may be at the helm of Harvey Global – a company helping to boost businesses by inspiring change amongst their leaders and workforces – and has built up an impressive portfolio of clients around the world, but ‘work’ is simply not how she views it.

“I always said I would leave what I do when it becomes work,” Harvey tells Move Commercial. “I’ve found what I’m here to do in life.”

Before carving out a successful career as a speaker, which has seen her provide services for major firms including Santander, Bank of America and 3M to name a few, Harvey was leading a training and development company.

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Having always had a “passion for human potential”, she set up the firm in 1993 which, by 2000, had grown to see her work alongside several fellow consultants to deliver bigger projects for clients.

“I’d do the pieces I was really good at and then I’ve always believed in surrounding yourself with great people,” says Harvey. “I would never bring to my client anything other than the bits I was good at and then I’d bring in the expertise.”

Harvey had been writing an emotional intelligence programme for 50 Barclaycard managers in 2001 when she says her life changed. She was approached with the suggestion that she should consider becoming a speaker.

“I found myself in Dallas and I remember walking into the National Speakers Association,” explains Harvey, as she recalls acting on the advice. “There were about 3,500 speakers there and I thought ‘oh, I’ve come home’.”

“I say to women ‘come on, we have to own our medicine’. Your medicine is the gift that you bring to the world, whatever your expertise in business.”

Now 17 years into her speaking career, Harvey has built up a lengthy list of achievements including a talk at the United Nations in New York, a speech for the British Council across five regions of Uzbekistan which she says reached an audience of around 26,000 people, and she was also named the first female president of the Professional Speaking Association in 2005/06.

Whilst other women have followed in the role, Harvey admits that there’s still “not enough women” taking centre stage in her industry.

“I actually see the pulse changing out there and there are lots of women stepping up,” she says, with optimism for the future. “I say to women ‘come on, we have to own our presence, we have to own our medicine and we have to own our power’.

“Your medicine is the gift that you bring to the world, whatever your expertise is in business.”

And whilst Harvey seems to certainly have made the most of global platforms and large-scale opportunities, she’s making an impact much closer to home too.

“I was in Leigh recently and this woman came up and said ‘10 years ago I heard you speak, I left my job and now I’m working in social care’,” recalls Harvey. “I could have died that day – I felt I’d lived because that woman had made a change in her life.”

Such is the impression that Harvey leaves on those she addresses, that she says around 90% of her business now comes from referrals and positive word of mouth.

So what’s the secret to Harvey’s success, and how does she hold the key to the right leadership and workplace culture for other businesses?

As well as having authenticity, insisting that she lives her own life by everything she talks about, Harvey is also well aware of the need for businesses to stay up to date with fast-paced changes and to continue learning and adapting.

“The companies which are really moving and shaking it with Brexit and everything else are the companies realising that if they don’t change, they’re gone,” says Harvey.

“People see now, within a few seconds, if you’re not authentic. Today with social media there’s just nowhere to hide.”

“What worked yesterday won’t work today. I’ve been in the human potential movement now for 30 years and, before, leadership was very much about the outside in, but now it’s all very much built around the inside out.

“People see now, within a few seconds, if you’re not authentic. Today with social media there’s just nowhere to hide.”

When it comes to technology and our ever-growing ability to communicate with the world at the touch of a button, Harvey has certainly been reaping the benefits for her own company Harvey Global.

The firm may be headquartered in Warrington, but Harvey now describes it as “virtual” with no real need for offices.

“I made a decision to go virtual because things are changing, really changing,” says Harvey – a believer that leadership is about “connection, community and collaboration”.

“The fact is some people are choosing to work from home today, there are different ways of working, and a lot of the time I go out to the client anyway.”

Harvey remembers a particular career moment which truly opened her eyes to the opportunities posed by digital connectivity.

“Eighteen months ago there was a game changer for me,” she says. “I got a call from a very large British organisation which works across the world and they said ‘we want you to work across 18 to 25 countries between May and the end of June,’ so it was a really short timescale.

“They said ‘you don’t need to get on planes but we have an amazing team of digital people in the Balkans. We want you to work across the countries but those guys will set you up’.

“It worked beautifully but I had to learn and adapt and change like never before.

“Did it stretch me? Unbelievably, but I passionately believe we have to get out there and should not be afraid to fail.

“Never be afraid of failing because failure comes into our lives to put us on the right direction, and I find successful leaders view failure differently to unsuccessful leaders.”

Accepting and adapting to change, highlights Harvey, is also a key step for businesses if they’re to stay in tune with future talent.

“Leadership has changed so much because it’s not about ego anymore; it’s about the heart of leadership and humbleness.

“I think of my daughter at 22 and she doesn’t care if you’ve been a leader for 30 or 40 years – they don’t care today, they have a whole different view.

“Then there’s my son and he makes a simple living in Ecuador with just his laptop.

“It’s a very different world and we’ve got to be able to build a bridge with the younger leaders who are coming.”

For Harvey, her role as a global motivational speaker addressing companies and organisations around the world also feeds her insight into how businesses can stay ahead.

“If you can change your morning routine you can change anything in your life.”

“A CEO told me something that inspired me so much,” she says, looking back to an international conference she spoke at in Prague last November. “She said that in Sweden now the CEOs who are really with it will always have a young mentor aged between 18 and 25.

“Why? Because they want to make sure they know what those young leaders want across the organisation. That’s brilliant, it’s building the bridge.”

So how easy is it for business leaders to make meaningful, positive changes?

“I’ll say to people that if you can change your morning routine you can change anything in your life,” says Harvey, whilst pointing out that she has benefitted from maintaining the mindset of a learner throughout her career.

“I wake up wherever I am in the world at 5am, and that was one of the things I found with outstanding leaders.

“I teach CEOs or people around the world what I call the ’30, 30, 30 rule’ – 30 minutes of quiet time, 30 minutes of reading a book or planning your day, and 30 minutes of exercise. That sets me up for the day and I learn while most people are sleeping.

“If you look at what I call outstanding leaders, what makes them outstanding is their habits and I always say to people that to have the results that very few have, you must begin to live like the better few.”